Purchase of foodgrains should not be on the lines of Covid-19 vaccines which the rich countries hoarded, Union minister V Muraleedharan said on Wednesday at the United Nations.

“It is necessary for all of us to adequately appreciate the importance of equity, affordability and accessibility when it comes to food grains,” Muraleedharan said at the meeting. “We have already seen to our great cost how these principles were disregarded in the case of Covid-19 vaccines. Open markets must not become an argument to perpetuate inequity and promote discrimination.”

The minister of state for external affairs was speaking at a ministerial meeting on the Global Food Security Call to Action chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken under the US Presidency of the UN Security Council for May.

On several occasions, the World Health Organization has flagged vaccine inequity and criticised rich countries for their reluctance in sharing Covid-19 vaccines with the low-income ones.

On Wednesday, Muraleedharan warned against a similar scenario for foodgrains. The minister pointed out that many low-income nations were confronted with the twin challenges of rising costs and difficulty in access to foodgrains.

“Even those like India, which have adequate stocks, have seen an unjustified increase in food prices. It is clear that hoarding and speculation are at work,” he said.

At the meeting, India spoke about its ban on wheat exports for the first time. Muraleedharan said that the Indian government stopped the exports after taking note of the sudden spike in global prices of wheat which had put the food security of the country, its neighbours and other vulnerable nations at risk.

On May 13, India had banned wheat exports to control the rising prices of the crop in the country. Within days, wheat prices rose globally on fears of disruption in supply due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which had accounted for 12% of global exports. India had said it was ready to help meet the supply shortages caused by the Ukraine war.